Philadelphia Flyers' fans were hopeful that Ilya Bryzgalov would help to solve the team's goaltending issues when he signed a long-term contract last summer. When the first year of that plan didn't exactly fall into place last season, the faithful probably would have continued supporting him if his personality hadn't gotten in the way.
Now that "Bryz" has made some provocative comments about various players potentially choosing to remain in the Kontinental Hockey League after the National Hockey League lockout ends, there must be a sizable number of Flyers' fans who are hoping that his prediction comes true.
Unlovable masked man?
When Bryzgalov signed with CSKA Moscow in the KHL, most fans probably thought that he was doing so to stay in shape and make some money. While the 32-year-old veteran doesn't need the coin, he could use as much playing time as possible based upon his uneven performance with the Flyers last season.
His speculation about top NHL players with Russian ties remaining in the KHL after the lockout is settled certainly didn't surprise Philadelphia hockey fans. Phoenix Coyotes' supporters also recall how he comes across when his views of reality are requested by the media.
NHL players have legal contracts that they must honor when the lockout ends. Unless a player and his NHL team reach some mutual agreement, it seems unlikely that anyone will be staying in the KHL. Bryzgalov certainly knows that.
He probably felt that he was supporting the Players' Association, or just decided to express another unfiltered thought. Be prepared CSKA fans, that type of self-sabotage has and will continue to create ongoing friction within every fan base.
The 'Bullie' brand
To be a fan of a team means that someone supports the entire organization. The Flyers have spent decades building their brand and fiercely loyal supporters are rightfully protective of that orange and black team.
Bryzgalov was (and is) seen as someone who speaks out against his own kind. But, his most recent comments probably could be placed into the category of "brotherhood bonding".
Sharp fans know that the Flyers' 2011-12 offensive game and overall defensive issues weren't conducive to strong team defense. They also understand that Bryzgalov didn't deserve full blame for the team's regular season efforts, its wild Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins or its Semifinals round loss to the New Jersey Devils. Despite that, a scant amount of number 30 jerseys were seen inside the Wells Fargo Center last season.
If this goaltender ever asks his agent to sever the remaining years of his contract, Flyers' founder and chairman Ed Snider would surely instruct general manager Paul Holmgren to quickly grant that request.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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